According to the advocacy group Consumer WatchDog, Google’s failure to offer its users in the US the same ‘right to be forgotten’ protection allowed in Europe clearly violates the US law on unfair and deceptive trade practices. On Tuesday, the organization submitted a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking them to look into the matter.
The ‘right to be forgotten’ essentially enables citizens to ask search engines to remove any links related to personal information about users that is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” According to a 2014 ruling by European Court of Justice, the Europeans right to be forgotten was confirmed on May 13 that year in favor of a Spanish woman who expressed her concern over search results linking her to information about a long-resolved property repossession which were irrelevant and asked to be removed. From then on, Google began fielding URL removal requests from users in Europe.
Shortly afterward, the search engine giant has received 281,242 requests from users in Europe for permanent removal of these links and evaluated more than a million URLs, according to its latest transparency report. It then agreed to remove 41.3 percent of those link requests.
The Mountain View giant can easily ‘honor’ such kind of requests for the US as well, says Consumer WatchDog.
“Removal won’t always happen, but the balance Google has found between privacy and the public’s right to know demonstrates Google can make the right to be forgotten or right to relevancy work in the United States,” Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director John Simpson said in his request to the FTC. “The Internet giant’s current approach of refusing to do so while claiming to protect users’ privacy is both unfair and deceptive.”
Simpson further added that not offering basic privacy tools in the US, while providing it to millions of users across Europe is an ‘unfair practice’, giving several examples of users who have been harmed by Google’s inadequacy to remove right to be forgotten requests in the United States. Among them included a school guidance counselor who lost her job because photos dating back 20 years when she used to be a lingerie model surfaced online.
Hence after Europe, it might be America’s turn to enjoy the ‘right to be forgotten. Though ‘it does not remove content from the Web’, Simpson stated in a complaint.
In a letter sent today to the FCC, John Simpson argued his case that despite Google’s claims that it is dedicated to users’ privacy, its unwillingness to allow American users remove inappropriate results is rather hypocritical. Google it seems is ‘Being Evil’ again.